Jefferson High School

Jefferson High School and Basin and Clancy elementary schools are the latest Jefferson County schools to decide not to reopen for the remainder of the academic year. 

The Montana City Elementary School Board was scheduled to meet Tuesday to make its decision on reopening or not. 

In a report to the Board released Monday, Superintendent Tony Kloker recommends remaining closed for the remainder of the year. In his report, Kloker said that nearly 70 percent of parents were against reopening, as well as the difficulty in following Gov. Steve Bullock’s directives and the policies issued by the Montana School Board Association.

Boulder, Whitehall and Cardwell elementary schools, as well as Whitehall High School had earlier voted not to reopen their doors to students. 

More than half of Jefferson High parents said they did not want to let their children return to class, and teachers were uncomfortable too, said school Trustee Kyrie Marks-Russ Thursday at a special Trustees meeting

The Trustees did not discuss plans for graduation. Jefferson High School Superintendent Tim Norbeck said they are still working out logistics, but graduation remains on schedule for Sunday, May 31 at 4 p.m. 

Clancy Superintendent/Principal David Selvig said at a Clancy School Board meeting that the logistics of returning to on-site instruction would be challenging, and ticked off a few possible scenarios, such as closing the playground, having to disinfect areas after every use and staggering bus and class times.

“It would be very difficult,” he said. 

While not reopening for onsite instruction, the schools will continue with remote learning. 

The boards were responding to Gov. Steve Bullock’s Phase 1 plan to reopen Montana as it continues to fight the spread of the novel corononavirus. Bullock had announced in April that schools could begin to reopen May 7, but the decision was to be made at the local level. 

A few school boards, Basin, Jefferson High and Clancy, discussed ways to bring in struggling students on a one-to-one basis, or in small groups, but no firm plans were yet established. 

The Boards also considered a series of policies related to protocols for the COVID-19 crisis issued by the Montana School Boards Association.The protocols address faculty and staff meetings, physical distancing and masks, visitors, use of transportation funds and personnel policies.

The Jefferson High School Board approved the option which did not require that staff and students wear masks while in the building, while Clancy chose the option that does require masks. The policy also calls for the six foot social distancing requirement. 

Although the policy includes students, the school building will remain closed to students.

As for meetings on school property, Jefferson High School and Clancy Elementary School choose the option to allow essential meetings, with board approval, and limited to 50 people while inside the building and following social distancing protocols, with vulnerable individuals being asked not to attend in person but participate via electronic means. Visitors to both schools must have permission from the designated administrator — superintendent, principal or supervising teacher — and adhere to social distancing protocols. 

Under Gov. Steve Bullock’s reopening directive, gatherings of up to 50 people are not permitted until Phase 2. Currently, the state is under Phase 1, which limits groups of up to 10 people. 

Norbeck said the school would not allow meetings in the building until the state moves into Phase 2. 

Boulder and Basin elementary schools will discuss the policies at their regular board meetings this month. Basin meets May 6 at 4:30 p.m. and Boulder meets May 11 at 5:30 p.m. 

The COVID-19 policies approved by Jefferson High School and Clancy Elementary remain in effect until June 30. 

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